Cheer up, Razorback fans: Less than 75 days 'til Your Heroes play football.
Year two of the Chad Morris adventure begins Aug. 31 with a Fayetteville game against Portland State. I suspect that good seats are still available at Reynolds Razorback Stadium, the only safe house (against Eastern Illinois and Tulsa) for Morris' first Arkansas team. Mostly with holdovers from the Bret Bielema carnage, those Hogs suffered through the first 10-loss season since football arrived on campus in 1894. You will need a scorecard to keep track of the comings and goings after that hideous campaign, one that ended with losses to Mississippi State and Missouri by a combined 90-6.
Not to pour it on Morris, but Saturday of Labor Day weekend is not a red-letter date in University of Arkansas football history. On that September date in 1992, Arkansas suffered an unspeakable defeat, 10-3, to a Citadel team booked as a breather. After conferring with his kitchen cabinet, Frank Broyles axed third-year coach Jack Crowe the next day, a Sunday, which a Little Rock sportswriter described the national reaction as being "not so correct politically."
One wonders how Broyles, a successful coach before guiding Razorback athletics to dizzying heights in a number of sports, would have reacted after the 2018 season. Hunter Yurachek, successor to the deposed Jeff Long as Razorback AD, displayed a quick trigger finger in firing basketball coach Mike Anderson, whose program was treading water in an increasingly dynamic Southeastern Conference. The football Razorbacks have been swimming beyond their depth for some time, with streaks of 0-12 against Alabama and 0-7 to Texas A&M while winning only once in five meetings against Missouri since ending the regular season against each other as SEC rivals.
One question that Razorback fans seem reluctant to answer, even to consider, is how many games must Arkansas win for Morris' second team to the judged successful?
Most early forecasts have Arkansas faring no better than 5-7, with a pie-in-the-sky prospect of 6-6 for a backwater bowl game. Morris needs a second year like that of Broyles in 1959, 8-3 (with Gator Bowl win over Georgia Tech) after 4-6. A nonconference schedule of Portland State, Colorado State, San Jose and Western Kentucky (the latter with ex-Razorback quarterback Ty Storey) seems manageable. Trouble is, said a Little Rock colleague after checking the schedule, "Show me two SEC games they can win."
Imagine the outcry in Razorback Nation if Arkansas, in a rare Week Two conference opener, loses at Ole Miss. After an early slate including Clemson and Auburn, Texas A&M should be favored over Arkansas in Arlington, Texas, where the Hogs haven't won in football since Bobby Petrino was coach. After not leaving the state in October 2018, Morris' second team goes to Kentucky and plays Auburn (home) and at Alabama in the harvest month. The verdict should be in before Arkansas faces LSU at Baton Rouge on the Saturday before Thanksgiving.
A third-straight Arkansas losing season would heap pressure upon Morris, who comes across as a dynamic recruiter but whose sideline decisions last year, especially in handling quarterbacks, have many wondering if he is an SEC-caliber coach.
UA baseball's Dave Van Horn is every bit a blue-chip coach, even after a season that the Razorbacks came home early from Omaha, Neb., after making the College World series championship round last year. Although exceeding its projected midpack SEC West forecast, Van Horn's team, with six new position players, could not satisfy the fans. Some considered Arkansas' 1-2 SEC tournament and 0-2 College World Series records (5-1 in other NCAA postseason games) disappointing.
It could be unfulfilling only to someone who looked at Razorback baseball as an atonement for the football team's failure and the basketball team's shortcomings. With all the games on TV, fans are asked to judge for themselves and not take the pronouncements of recruiting services and Razorback-friendly media as gospel. A little perspective never hurt anyone and after an athletic year like this one, with its warmest feelings reserved for certain women's sports, Razorback Nation is encouraged to refocus before the new one begins.
As this is written, Arkansas' football opener is 73 days off -- and counting. Cheer up, if you can!Sports on 06/20/2019
Print Headline: What's ahead in UA football: Who knows?